Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation: A Tow Rope out of the Valley of Death?

The so-called Valley of Death is no joke. Each year, dozens and dozens of hopeful researchers with a new, potentially up-and-coming therapy or medication find themselves stranded at the crossroads of proof-of-concept and clinical trial. In other words, they’re stuck between the academic world and clinical research, in a gulf so deep and hard to get out of the whole world of science research knows it as the Valley of Death. The place where promising ideas go to die.

Lately, we’ve been seeing quite a few new initiatives that promise to speedboat formerly dead-in-the-water proposals languishing in the Valley of Death straight to the clinical trial phase, and we like what we’re seeing. The latest is this one from the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, which has announced that they’re accepting proposals for clinical trials of innovative drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease.

Through its Program to Accelerate Clinical Trials, the foundation will award grants of up to $1.5 million for biomarker-based pilot clinical trials of Alzheimer’s drugs at the proof-of-concept phase—right where they’re most vulnerable to the sucking black hole the Valley of Death represents. The foundation has its priorities, and has made it clear that it is specifically interested in therapies that address energy utilization/mitochondria function, insulin sensitivity, protein degradation/autophagy, ApoE function and cholesterol metabolism, vesicular trafficking, inflammatory pathways, synaptic function/morphology, calcium regulation, myelin changes, ischemia and oxidative stress, vascular injury, and the blood-brain barrier interface.

We find ADDF’s focus on drugs interesting, in part because other major outfits in the field—we’re looking at you, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund—have historically been very slow to get promising drugs in the pipeline. CAF has Drug Discovery grants of a few thousand dollars, which pales in comparison with the millions they’re offering their Foundational Genetics programs, and though CAF also has a Drug Development program, so far, all is quiet on that front. There just isn’t anything out there that’s promising enough to back, by CAF’s assessment.

We’re glad someone else is sticking their neck out in the name of discovering novel new therapies for Alzheimer’s.

Nonprofit academic institutions and for-profit biotechnology companies are eligible to apply. Deadlines in 2015 for full proposals are March 10, June 16, September 22, and December 10. Letters of intent are required at least two weeks prior to the application deadline. See the ADDF website for complete program guidelines and application instructions.